Monday, February 11, 2008

Our books are for everyone--Barack-style

Martha Southgate here. Here's another thought I want to share. In my mind, part of how RingShout can carry out its mission in addition to building community among and for African-American writers of some seriousness and ambition (although we like to party!) would be the notion of broadening who we include in that community. I don't want to to only talk to or talk about reaching black readers. The best of our work is literature--period--and people of all races can and should profit by reading it. Our experience is a crucial part of the American experience, after all. I believe that key to carrying forth RingShout's mission is that we work hand-in-hand with the"mainstream." I mean, hey, Barack Obama wouldn't be running as strongly as he is if he only talked to black people--he stands strong as a black man who will speak to everyone, without compromising or hiding his race. But he's not running on it either. I want RingShout to do the same, literarily speaking.

Black books of quality--we're writing about it

The founding circle of RingShout has been busy moving the conversation forward about the place of literary fiction and non-fiction by black folks in the current landscape. Besides my piece, "Writers Like Me," which got us started, Eisa Ulen has written "The Naked Truth" which appears in the Winter 2008 issue of The Crisis Magazine--you can read it in its entirety on her blog here. And Bridgett Davis appears today on The with her piece, "The L-Word." Check 'em out and join the conversation.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Party all the time!

The RingShout launch party on February 1 was a blast. This party with a purpose drew more than 100 eager and interested folks. The ideas and the fun flew fast and furious. After taking a little breather, the founding circle is getting together on the 21st to cull the ideas and begin to reach out for assistance as we move forward. For now, here's a pic of us taken by the fabulous Sarah McNally--thanks Sarah! (I'm clearly the RingShout elf) Thanks so much to all who came! Martha S.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Our preliminary list and tool kit

Here's a link to our booklist and tool kit--let us know what you think!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Who we are

Here's RingShout's founding circle:

Bridgett M. Davis's debut novel Shifting Through Neutral was published in 2004 by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins, and chosen as an “Original Voices” Selection by Borders Books. She was a finalist for the 2005 Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright LEGACY Award, and selected as New Author of the Year by Go on Girl! Book Club -- the largest national reading group for African-American women. Her essays, reviews and articles have appeared in The Washington Post, Columbia Journalism Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Chicago Tribune. Her feature film, Naked Acts, won numerous awards, and was released on DVD in 2000. A Professor of Journalism at Baruch College, CUNY, where she teaches Creative Writing and Journalism courses, she is the recipient of the 2006 Excellence in Education award from the New York Association of Black Journalists. She is currently working on her new novel, entitled Lagos, set in 1980’s Nigeria and based on her time in West Africa as the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Ms. Davis lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.

Christopher Jackson is Executive Editor of Spiegel and Grau, a division of Random House. He has worked with award-winning and bestselling authors including Edwidge Danticat , Victor LaValle, David Corn, Jack Weatherford, Warren St. John, Aaron McGruder, Nancy Rawles, and Cupcake Brown

Alison Meyers is the Executive Director of Cave Canem: A Home for Black Poetry. She has more than 30 years of administrative experience with a focus on arts-and-culture development. From 2000 to 2006, she was Artistic Director of the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, a multi-faceted program of Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, CT, where she also served as Director of Marketing & Communications. Previously, she was General Manager of the Oberlin Co-operative Bookstore, a $3-million operation serving Oberlin College and the surrounding community. Prior to that, she owned and managed Everyday Books & Café in Willimantic, CT. She is also a published poet, twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she has been a judge for the Connecticut Book Awards and the ImPac Awards, and served as a panelist for the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

Eisa Nefertari Ulen is the author of Crystelle Mourning, a novel described by The Washington Post as “a call for healing in the African American community from generations of hurt and neglect.” Her essays, exploring topics ranging from Hip Hop to Muslim life in America post-9/11 to the gap between the Civil Rights generation and Generation X, have been widely anthologized. Nominated by Essence magazine for a National Association of Black Journalists Award, she has contributed to numerous other publications, including The Washington Post, Ms., Health, Heart & Soul, Vibe, The Source, Black Issues Book Review, Quarterly Black Review of Books, and She is the recipient of a Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center Fellowship for Young African American Fiction Writers and a Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center Fellowship. Ulen graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University. She teaches English at Hunter College in New York City and lives with her husband in Brooklyn.

Martha Southgate is the author of Third Girl from the Left which was published in paperback by Houghton Mifflin in September 2006. It won the Best Novel of the year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. Her previous novel, The Fall of Rome, received the 2003 Alex Award from the American Library Association and was named one of the best novels of 2002 by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post. She is also the author of Another Way to Dance, which won the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for Best First Novel. She received a 2002 New York Foundation for the Arts grant and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her July 2007 New York Times Book Review article "Writers Like Me" was the initial spark for RingShout and generated considerable notice in publishing and literary circles. Previous non-fiction articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, O, Premiere, and Essence. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two children.

How did we come to be?

RingShout was founded following Martha Southgate's essay "Writers Like Me" in the New York Times Book Review in July of 2007. The response in the blogosphere and in the literary world was enormous. So Martha wanted to harness this energy. She contacted Cornelius Eady and Alison Meyers of Cave Canem , a group she greatly admired, for insight into how they had formed their organization. The next step was contacting several writers, editors and a bookseller (Sarah McNally of McNally Robinson Books who participated in our first couple of meetings) who she knew and respected. The five got together over a period of six months and brainstormed until they had come up with a way to form a book list and a tool kit that would help carry out the group's mission. We kicked off with a party to drum up support and volunteers on February 1, 2008. At the present time, we remain an all-volunteer effort that is unaffiliated with any larger organization.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What is ringShout?

Welcome to our temporary internet home. Thanks to Ann Leamon for telling us that we could use Blogger in this way until we get our site up. Watch out for updates!

Our Mission

Founded in 2007 by a group of writers, editors and booksellers,
ringShout: A Place for Black Literature
is dedicated to recognizing, reclaiming and celebrating
excellence in contemporary literary fiction and nonfiction
by black writers in the United States.

Why the name ringShout?

One of the first dances created by
Africans brought to America as slaves
in the 1700s, the ring shout was a
sacred circle dance of salvation that enabled
a community to find perserverance,
provided solace and rejuvenation,
and sheltered many early nuances of
Africanist culture and practice.

Adapted from Thea Nerissa Barnes,
The Association of Dance of the African
Diaspora Dictionary 2005-2006

We hope that our ringShout can be the same for serious, skilled black writers creating ambitious fiction. We also want to assert our centrality to all facets of the American experience, literary and otherwise.